According to an old German chronicle, the Jewish community of Deventer was among those destroyed during an outbreak of the plague in 1349. Although some Jews did reside in Deventer off and on during the centuries that followed, it was only toward the end of the eighteenth century that Jews could obtain official permission to settle there.
A Jewish community was founded in Deventer in 1797. At the start, it consisted of seven families. In 1798, the fledgling community purchased a house on the Golstraat and converted it into a synagogue. Not long after, the community began construction of a new synagogue on the Roggestraat.
During the nineteenth century, the Jewish community of Deventer grew rapidly. By 1811, it numbered twenty families. In 1805, the community purchased land for a cemetery just outside of the Brinkpoort, along the Lange Rij near the Beestenmarkt. The cemetery was cleared away in 1870 during an expansion of the city, and the community was offered a new plot of land on the Diepenveenseweg.
In 1868, a conflict resulted in a split in the community that lasted until 1883. In 1892, a new and larger synagogue was built on the site of the old Golstraat synagogue to accommodate the re-united community.
Jewish education in Deventer dates to the outset of the nineteenth century. The Jewish school given new quarters in 1864 and in 1897 was moved to the synagogue building on the Roggestraat.
The Deventer community maintained a number of voluntary organizations including burial societies for men and for women, a society for Torah study, and a women's society that cared for the synagogue's interior and ceremonial objects. Other organizations provided aid to the poor, support to needy new mothers, and circumcision ceremonies for the sons of needy families. Cultural institutions included a synagogue choir and a literary society.
Many of the Jews of Deventer traded in textiles and hides, or were pedlars in the city's markets. A large part of the community lived in the Noorderberg quarter of
the city near the Golstraat synagogue.
During the early twentieth century, Deventer emerged as a vibrant center of Jewish life and an attractive city for Jews to live in. New voluntary organizations arose including two youth clubs, a theater society, a branch of the Netherlands Zionist Bund, and a Zionist youth organization. In 1918, The Deventer Society, a vocational school providing training for young people emigrating to Palestine, was established. During the years between the two World Wars, hundreds of young people from the Netherlands and abroad passed through the school. The Deventer community also provided generous aid to refugees from Germany and Eastern Europe.
Following the German conquest of the Netherlands in 1940, members of the Dutch National Socialist Party (NSB) molested the Jews of Deventer and their property. In Deventer, as throughout Europe, strong anti-Jewish measures were applied. Deportations commenced in August, 1942 and were completed by April, 1943. The majority of the pre-war Jewish population of Deventer perished.
After the war, Jewish life in Deventer blossomed anew. The synagogue - the interior of which had been destroyed in 1941 - was repaired in 1945. In 1948, the Jewish populations of Raalte and Holten were merged into the Deventer community. In 1952, a new synagogue was consecrated on the Lange Bisschopstraat. That synagogue served the community until 1984. By then the activities of the Deventer community had been dramatically curtailed, in part due to emigration to Israel, and, in 1987, the synagogue was sold. A moment to the murdered Jews of Deventer that had stood in the synagogue was moved to Deventer's city hall. In 1985, a monument in memory of Dutch Jewish writer Etty Hillesum was installed on the bank of the river IJssel. A monument at the corner of the Papenstraat and Ankersteeg commemorates the murdered Jews of the Netherlands.
Today, all of Deventer's former synagogues have been given new uses. The former synagogue on the Golstraat housed a Reformed church until 2009. Since May 2010 the Jewish group Beth Shoshanna had its synagogue services in the building. In 2011 the synagogue will be bought by the city of Deventer to rent it to the Etty Hillesum Centre.
Since 1996, the former synagogue and Jewish school on the Roggestraat has housed the Etty Hillesum Centre. The Centre contains a permanent exhibition tracing the history of Jewish life in Deventer.
Since 2000, the Jews of Deventer, together with those of Apeldoorn and Zutphen, comprise the Joodse Gemeente Stedendriehoek (Urban Triangle Jewish Community). The combined community, in which Zutphen plays the central role, holds numerous social and cultural events.
The old Jewish cemetery on the Lange Rij was cleared in 1960 and the remains of the buried were re-interred in the cemetery on the Diepenveenseweg. A replica of the memorial monument that stands in the city hall was placed in the cemetery in 1993. The cemetery's house for the ritual cleaning of the dead was restored in 1995.
Over the past 200 years, small numbers of Jewish families had also lived in the towns and villages that surround Deventer, including Twello, Bathmen, Wijhe, Olst, and Gorssel.
The Jewish population of Deventer and surroundings:
The size of the Jewish community over time